Of all the personal aircraft available to private pilots, the $329,000 Cirrus SR22 might be the safest. In addition to an onboard tracking system that monitors the movement of other aircraft and an easy-to-read flat-panel screen that displays maps detailed with GPS navigation, the plane is equipped with a parachute that can be deployed in the event of an in-flight emergency to ensure a relatively gentle landing. The parachutes have already saved a number of pilots; as of earlier this year, three disabled planes were able to land safely.
Besides being safe, the single-engine SR22 delivers plenty of performance. It is the in-air equivalent of a grand tourer rather than a sports car. It cruises faster than 200 mph and has a range of more than 1,150 miles. On takeoff, the plane’s powerful torque requires you to feed in power gradually and use the brakes to aim the plane straight while speed builds up. A single lever controls both power and prop, which requires some adjustment for training-level pilots. While the SR22 will not be mistaken for a fighter plane, it does handle smoothly at cruising speed. The control panel is uncluttered; two LCD screens replace many of the dials, gauges, and navigation displays found in previous-generation aircraft.
Cirrus recently introduced the upgraded SR22 G2, which will soon join the FreeFlight fleet. The plane’s new nose fairing and scimitar-shaped propeller increase its cruising speed, while the cabin’s four leather seats help the SR22 G2 feel more like a luxury automobile than a propeller aircraft.